Oakland parents strike, demand teacher’s removal

Lazear Elementary School strike. Photo by Kristopher Skinner/Bay Area News GroupUPDATE: The school district has placed the teacher on administrative leave while they investigate the latest complaint, which alleges physical abuse.

Parents at Lazear Elementary went on strike today, which meant they kept their kids out of school. Only 60 of about 300 children showed up in the morning.

The protesting parents said they’ve filed complaints about a problematic third-grade teacher for more than a year, and nothing has happened. They said they were tired of hearing about “the process.”

On the other end of the teacher firing spectrum, parents and teachers at Claremont Middle School last night expressed shock and horror that one of their star, go-getter teachers — a newbie, without job protections — received a dismissal notice. As is often the case with these first- and second-year teachers, she was apparently released without even knowing why. (Lillian Mongeau from Oakland North wrote about it in more detail.)

One Claremont teacher said Thaler was a “truth-teller,” and wondered if that’s what did it. It’s possible, and we might never know. (It’s also possible that the school board will rescind her dismissal and give Thaler her job back.)

Where is the middle ground? I’ve heard people say there’s too much focus on the so-called “bad teachers,” and not enough on the average ones, who greatly outnumber them. One could argue the process in place in most districts perpetuates that dynamic by requiring administrators to spend a disproportionate amount of time to assist or remove poor teachers — in some cases, by transferring them (and their challenges) to other schools.

Or when a staffing situation bubbles over, as it has at Lazear.

OUSD Board Member Noel Gallo was at Lazear this morning to support the parents, and later at the district office protest. He said he expects this sort of response will keep happening as parents in less affluent neighborhoods continue to organize. He said a bad teacher “wouldn’t last a day at Hillcrest” or other more affluent schools, and that the system has to change. (I should note that I’ve heard a different story from hills parents.)

Do you agree with Gallo? What should be done? We discussed this in January, when AFT President Randi Weingarten called for “less glacial” due process.

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • wally barnaby

    Parents should not be intimidated. They should strike when bad teachers are protected, to the determinant of thousands of Oakland kids.

    I am all for job rights, and due process, (and the fact that we need way better principals in our schools–we get what we pay for, incidentally, compared to Cupertino, for instance) but protecting bad teachers WHILE HURTING OUR FUTURE GENERATION is unconscionable.

  • Kim Shipp

    I agree with Noel. The process is too long and tedious. No other industry would tolerate this. The protection of adults is at the wrong end of the spectrum.

  • J.R.

    Making our communities better by ridding ourselves of the bad apples in the bunch is precisely what is needed. If we parents wont stand up for our kids, then no one will.

  • Cranky Teacher

    I totally support the parents in striking. They are making themselves heard. I have been in this situation as a parent and we were definitely moving in a similar path but the teacher was removed. This is putting the heat on everybody to take their concerns seriously.

    Kim Shipp, though, is silly to say this is unique to teaching. There are nightmare employees in both the private and public sectors who last against all odds, and I say that from experience in both.

    Think of how hard it is to fire a bad cop — hell, the guys who bungled the Black Muslim Bakery investigation are still on the payroll here in Oakland. It took years before the “Night Riders” police gang was uncovered. Meanwhile in the private sector, I knew plenty of employees who hung on despite incompetence because they kissed butt, were convenient as hatchetmen or just laid so low nobody bothered to come after them.

    Sure, there are some professions which are more efficient at weeding out underperformers — as in “Glengarry Glen Ross” type sales shops. But the norm in large institutions is inertia and a distaste for confrontation.

  • TheTruthHurts

    Hurray for these parents for sticking up for their kids. I don’t know if it’s better in the hills or flats, but parents everywhere need to be heard. Maybe that will help solve the problem and not just move it around the District.

  • http://www.skylinehs.org/apps/pages/index.jsp?uREC_ID=77763&type=u&rn=6808095 David Orphal

    Non-teaching professionals who have advanced degrees, in the California Bay Area typically start at between $50,000 – $65,000 and can look to make between $100,000 – $120,000 without making major changes to their jobs… (I’m talking about the project manager who moves to director, not the director who advances to VP).

    Teachers in the Bay Area start around $35,000 to $40,000 and can end in the mid $70k.

    What teachers have that other professionals don’t are longer vacations, job security and a defined-benefit retirement program. These are very valuable job benefits and if counted at a part of total compensation, then teacher compensation begins to compare well with other professionals.

    If job security, so-called tenure, we no longer a part of teacher compensation, then there would have to be a bump in salary to compensate for it. How big a bump is where there is lots of room for talk.

    Teacher Unions should begin to have this discussion. How much is teacher job-security worth? If teachers were making between $70k and $100k would teachers be able to put enough money into savings to bridge a gap in employment? Other professionals are able to do this, why not teachers?

    Communities should also have this conversation. How much is it worth to the community to be able to weed out under-performing or down-right poorly performing teachers?

  • walton barnaby

    @David Orphal

    Brilliant, sir. Pay teachers more, and take away job ownership. Pay principals more and get better school leaders. Maybe our gov. will spend less on the military and more on education some day…

  • Bob Sayer

    For years we have been hearing schoolers wishing for parental participation. Now that they get some it is diverted,negated and rejected. What did we expect?

  • Sara

    Maybe Montera isn’t considered an “affluent” school but it took a lot of parents and students complaining to get a really bad teacher removed. In fact it tooks years so I don’t agree with Mr. Gallo’s comment.

  • CMS

    Re: the Lazear teacher. Sadly, this is not an isolated incident in this school, and I imagine any other school. Eager, focused teachers are treated to pink slips year after year while many uninterested, sit-behind-the-desk teachers are retained. This is not to say that all tenured teachers are awful. Quite the contrary. What’s sad, though, is that unlike in the private business sector, this “educator” is not called out and expected to follow through with some skill-enhancement or retraining, that a 30-, 60-, and 90-day review process of what’s improved and still needed has not occurred.
    Since this is clearly not the first time this has occurred, perhaps the union & administration might get together and re-analyze the retention process and focus on the on-going process of What Makes a Good Teacher Teach and Stay.

  • Cranky Teacher

    CMS, some of what you are saying does not historically apply to Oakland.

    Specifically, we do NOT have a history here of laying off non-tenured teachers each year — the district has been too desperate for staffing.

    Even this year, with the budget cuts and recession, it remains to be seen if those who got pink slips will actually not be retained in district.

    Furthermore, we have a clear evaluation process just like that I experienced in the private sector. Yet overworked administrators simply can’t/don’t implement these evaluations in a systematic way. When you meet a borderline personality teacher and find they haven’t been evaluated in 6 or 7 YEARS, it is hard to see where this is the union’s fault, and not the management’s.

  • harlemmoon

    What’s OEA’s position on the Lazear teacher?

  • J.R.

    “When you meet a borderline personality teacher and find they haven’t been evaluated in 6 or 7 YEARS, it is hard to see where this is the union’s fault, and not the management’s.”

    Reality check:

    1. Teachers are notified beforehand what day they are to be evaluated(people by nature tend to be on their best behavior when they are evaluated).This is not necessarily a true picture of teacher performance.

    2. Teachers are not evaluated on a consistent basis, not very many times per year, or for a very long period. It is a very cursory and shallow procedure not good enough to zero in on the truly poor quality teachers.

    The union imposed contracts are too lax when it comes to teacher accountability, so the deck has been stacked against the taxpayers, parents and children.

  • anonymous

    I need some more information. What did the teacher do? What “process” are they talking about? has she been through PAR? From my understanding, the coaches and the PAR team really look at a lot of evidence when making decisions? As a teacher you can’t just do WHATEVER. Some things will get you fired immediately. That’s pretty bad.

  • Katy Murphy

    The full story, which was in today’s Trib, explains more. You can find the link at the top of the blog post.

  • Chauncey

    All I can say is ditto. Charter attacks generate dozens of reponses, but a teacher….a few.

    Parents… This is what school choice is about-forget what you hear and look at what you see..

    Where is the union on this one? Mr. Mordecai…the floor is yours.

  • Katy Murphy

    As for the union position: OEA President Betty Olson-Jones said it was unfortunate the teacher’s case was “being tried in public.”

    She also emphasized that it’s the responsibility of school administrations to evaluate and discipline teachers — not the union. (The Lazear parents who organized the boycott aren’t happy with the principal either, for that reason.)

  • Kim Shipp

    Cranky Teacher, you are right. There are bad apples in all industries. I should have been more specific. The problem here is the evaluation process.

  • mary

    About the alleged misbehaving teacher at Lazear: it takes a firm, formal, legal letter by early October to be able to properly reprimand or remove any teacher by June…This is rare because it takes so much time of documentation. Once documentation has begun, a principal also has to document the like behaviors of behaving teacher to show that there is no preferential or disparaging effort on the part of the principal to just pick on any teacher…You are talking about 20 hours of documentation per week to stay legal.

  • http://www.skylinehs.org/apps/pages/index.jsp?uREC_ID=77763&type=u&rn=6808095 David Orphal

    Teacher Unions are in a bind when it comes to poorly performing teachers. The relationship between the Union and the District Administration is meant to be adversarial. It is not unlike the relationship between a District Attorney and a Defense Lawyer. It is not the D.A.’s job to find out the truth of the case; it is her job to put the accused in jail. It is not the Defense Lawyer’s job to find the truth; it is his job to get his client off. Only in the clash, as both sides do their very best to win, does the truth come out. At least, this is how it is supposed to work.

    It is not the Union’s job to find out if a teacher is fit for the classroom. The Union’s job is to defend it’s members. It should be the Administration’s job to get rid of poor teachers. When these two sides clashed, the truth should come out.

    Unfortunately, being far overworked with ever-increasing mandates, Administrators are no longer in a position where they can spend the time, energy, or resources to engage in this clash and remove ineffective teachers.

    Perhaps it is time for teacher unions to look at expanding their role in recruiting, training and retaining of high-quality teachers. Perhaps it is time for the unions to begin to hybridize. We could continue to defend our membership, but we could also expand our role in on-going teacher training and support. Perhaps we could discuss and identify our own standards of conduct and performance and hold ourselves accountable to one another as colleagues and fellow professionals.

    The California Teachers’ Association already has some of the pieces in place to do just this. We have a professional code of conduct. We lack any meaningful way to hold ourselves accountable to ourselves. We have diverse and engaging teacher training and workshops, notably through the Institute for Teaching, but these programs are small, underfunded, and underutilized.

  • Union Supporter-But

    To Betty Olson-Jones: Shame on you for saying that “It’s a shame that the teacher is being tried in public.” When a teacher at our school did not know the subject she was teaching, the principal paid of a substitute on school time and paid for training. the teacher did not go because of “transportation issues.” Her mileage or train fare were being paid as well and the principal, concerned because the teacher did not “like to drive long distances” found something four blocks from a train station.

    The expense ended up costing the hundreds of dollars.

    The teacher wil not take the summer training even if it is paid by the school and there is a $100 stipend at the end. It’s her time off. Meanwhile, the documentation (several parents, student work and about 25 hours of classroom observations by the principal with documentation as well as documentation of parent-teacher conferences at the request of parents has yielded little, the union is protecting her “right” and the students do not have the education that is guaranteed by law – a fully qualified teacher in their classroom. If you don’t know grade level content, you have told your students not to ask questions because you don’t know the work, you are not qualified.

    The union is not willing to help the students get their educational needs met because the students are not “constituents” of the union. There is nowhere for parents to go but the district ombudsman with a Williams Complaint or to the streets.

    If the union would sit down and require an impartial authority to say that a teacher must have their own grade level knowledge of the subjects they are teaching and the teacher must take advantage of the training offered, agreed on and paid for by the school, then teachers would get the job and education skills they are lacking and need, principals could make progress at the school instead of spending time and effort documenting, students would receive the education they want and need and parents would not have to take their complaints to the street.

  • TrueBeliever

    I agree, in part, with Mr. Gallo that certainly the process for removing incompetent teachers seems to go faster at certain schools than others, i.e. Hillcrest v. Lazear. Minimally, the parents at those schools are better at navigating the system and are more comfortable about advocating for their children. It makes me angry when we see the evidence of poor teaching manifested in the failure of children, particularly children of color; without question it is an issue of equity. And the PARS process is a joke…case in point, I work with a teacher who is in PARS and any objective observer would notice that her knowledge of content is weak, her classroom management ineffective, and her delivery of the content is horrid. Furthermore, she does not move around the room, she sits 90% of the time and she teaches kindergarten. Yet the PARS coach benignly watches and sits, implicitly and passively signing off on the travesty that is taking place before her eyes.

    As to the comment that the relationship between the union and district administration is meant to be adversarial, riddle me this…are we going to continue to sacrifice children while we posture back and forth? We should be of one mind, union & administration, that teachers determined to be incompetent as supported by objective documentation do more harm than good and should be released for the good of children. In fact, it might support union efforts to secure fair compensation for teachers that are doing their job. This process has been extremely frustrating to watch. I am offended for the parents of the children in the class and guess what?…She’ll probably get to stay and continue to ruin the educational experience of another group of children. She’s on her second generation of children as she has been teaching for more than 15 years, high atop the pay scale getting a check for not teaching black and brown children, hiding in program improvement schools. OEA, please weigh in on this madness…

  • Harold

    @Union Supporter-But, –Who hired a person that doesn’t know the subject matter? did the principal or anyone on 2nd avenue get: fired or written up for hiring someone who like this? Last time i checked… OEA neither hires nor fires classroom Teachers.

  • Mary

    One of the options for schools who apply for the federal school improvement grant is to change the way that teachers are evaluated. Two Oakland middle school communities chose this option. If the superintendent respects the wishes of those communities, then the union will have the opportunity to negotiate a waiver to the contract that will require teachers to be evaluated based on measures of student academic growth. The measures can be collaboratively defined between the district, the school and the union. If we start to evaluate teachers using performance data, such as the portfolio assessment described above, along with benchmark tests, etc, then the evaluation process will be less prone to abuse, and more objective. It will get everyone talking about the right thing: student outcomes.

  • aly

    this incident and david’s point about the adversarial relationship are exactly why i hate belonging to OEA/CTA. there is so much time wasted by BOTH sides- union and district- trying to fire bad teachers when they should both be cultivating good ones. i appreciate the union’s ability to bargain for my pay and benefits, but it is so amazing to me that they can’t see how they kill their own case with crap like this.

    OEA: when you spend time defending teachers who don’t deserve their jobs, you make yourselves look like a joke and an organization who doesn’t care about the real business here: kids. why would the district negotiate other concerns seriously when you create major roadblocks to eliminating unprofessional, incompetent individuals and act as though these people are somehow entitled to their jobs?

    the worst part is that you’re made of teachers. i’ve always hated working with incompetent colleagues- they make my job at least 10x harder and on top of that i lose out on someone to collaborate with. so not only does working to keep an ineffective teacher hurt the kids, it hurts the good teachers everyday business, too.

    finally, i’ve said over and over again that administrators are over-burdened with things that don’t necessarily relate to instruction, but i guarantee you that if it wouldn’t take 40+ hours of documentation, review, meetings, etc to get rid of someone who couldn’t carry their weight (only to know it might not even result in termination, to boot) admin would be a lot more motivated to write teachers up and even try coaching them because the teacher would be more motivated to LISTEN TO THE COACHING.

    this whole process stinks and i am incredibly proud of the lazear elementary parents for standing up for what is right. i hope ALL parents are inspired by this and remember the power they ought to have.

  • aly

    i forgot to mention that if OEA showed they were willing to get rid of teachers who DON’T DESERVE raises, those of us who work our butts off and continually aim to improve our practice might have a real shot at getting the raises we so earn. the public, and district, would feel better giving us more money if we showed we were serious about earning it and not just “deserving” it.

  • J.R.

    You said it perfectly, thank you.

  • Nextset

    If the Public School Districts cannot fire bad teachers it’s possible things will reach the point where the school is to be closed (NCLB?) and the teachers all fired. That gets around tenure completely. Just fire everybody. The next day the school can reopen as a charter with invited (desired) teachers rehired by the new school which as a charter can operate without any tenure.

    Am I right that some version of this is what can/does happen?

    What I feel is being described in this blog is an inexorable process of the destruction of public schools in favor of charters. Am I correct?

  • Union Supporter-But

    @ Harold: The hiring principal is no longer at the school.

  • Concerned Citizen

    It sadden me to know that the students who attend OUSD are the loosers. The important issues are not addressed. Starting with the CDC’s the district are paying retired CDC administrators: Ruth Bucannan, Diane Kirkman and Floria Spencer to work as high paid consultants. Has anyone investigated the impact their services have on Early Childhood Education Program? The money spent for paying those consultants could pay for a food service workers and lunch programs at the CDC sites.

    I notice some parents are unaware and others are unconcerned with the fact that there are two different schools at the Oakland Tech. site. The general school population and the exclusive population. Those parents who are unaware should get involved and pay attention to their child(ren) at Oakland Tech. The parents who are not concerned are the parents whose child(ren) are in such classes as Parker Merril(sp) and other teachers who does not allow African-American or any students who are low-performers programmed into his class. The principal is Shelia O and co-principal Fred T.

    Fremont High School has at least 4 principals earning an average of $80,000+ a year which is a waste of district money that should be used directly for students. Fremont should be converted back to a comprehensive high school.

    Ralph Bunche is a waste of the students time for education and paying Fulton Brinkley is a waste of money.

    McClymonds is also a waste of the students time for education and should be converted back to a comprehensive high school.

    Skyline has lost it…it has fallen into the same category as: McClymonds, Castlemont, Tech & Fremont.

    Castlemont is also a waste of the students time for education and should be converted back to a comprehensive high school.

    Montrea has lost it…it is going down real fast. To read about Mr. Musfun and his performance at the other school districts and OUSD continue to cover up for him affect the education of the students.

    The teachers are should not be blamed. The problem is much higher than the teachers.

    The district also rehires retired classified to work as consultants when they could pay the current classified employees to perform the same tasks.

    Go to http://www.ratemyteacher.com and see how students feel about their educational leaders.

  • Harold

    @Aly – OEA doesn’t hire or fire. Why do people keep saying OEA is “protecting” bad Teachers? OEA is there to protect the due process, if necessary. OEA can’t send that Teacher home.

  • Harold

    one more Aly, if there were no union… do you think our Administration on 2nd avenue, would cut their own staffing or consultants? do you think your pay would stay the same? they are offering no raise right now, without a union they would furlough us and cut our pay going forward.

    Union Strong!!!

  • J.R.

    OEA does not hire or fire, but they make sure(via contract) that the procedure for firing substandard teachers is as labor intensive, and cost prohibitive as possible. unions have one very bad side effect, they protect the bad teachers right along with the good teachers. I would be insulted if I were a teacher, and the sub-standard teacher (who gives their kids nothing but packets, while they sit at their desk and never instructs)were paid the same as the teacher who busts their butt to create and teach highly engaging lessons to the kids in the class on most days and puts a lot of love and effort into what they do.

  • J.R.

    The strongest thing about unions is their sense of entitlement. No one owes you a job just because of seniority, in the real world you have to prove your worth day in and day out because there are no guarantee’s. If your boss does not like the way you do your job, you are gone in a heartbeat, they don’t owe you anything.

  • Gordon Danning

    All this talk about how hard it is to fire bad teachers misses an important point, which is that the overall level of teaching in OUSD (or, at least at my school) is pretty mediocre (based on my conversations with students). That might in part be because the criteria used to evaluate teachers border on silly (I have never had an evaluator ask for my unit plans, for example), and it might in part be a function of the lack of agreed upon professional standards, or it might be a function of the tradition of giving teachers a lot of leeway re: what they teach. That pretty much guarantees mediocrity, if I remember my elementary Statistics

  • Union Supporter-But

    @ Gordon. I think you are correct. When the new principal reviewed the teacher in questions lesson plans, the principal found that the lesson plans were not in units, did not contain any standard content, conflicted with the information in the textbook the teacher was using to teach the lesson and had no assessment what-so-ever.

    The lesson plans for math had incorrect answers to the information that was to be presented.

  • obama.newage

    People please the real problem is how our Oakland district trains our principals to handle any teacher. We should not be quick to always blame the teachers in Oakland. But, if you think we are having problems. Look at Hayward and their corruption at the district. The board appointed a board member with a wife as the Director of Personnel. See http://www.betterhayward.com

    And then the district destroys all evidence.
    If you know anyone in Hayward tell them to print and fill out the petition at http://www.betterhayward.com

    My daughter has kids there and I am tire of that district. We in Oakland have problems but we have come a long way. I wish we could help the Hayward people in the special election by walking their neighborhoods since you have to be a Hayward voter resident. I’ll see if I can get my fellow old foggies in Hayward to help. Maybe you can help too.

  • Cranky Teacher

    J.R., a correction to one of your claims:

    Admin can do up to five eval visits a year on a teacher, and only the formal ones are scheduled in advance. They can also ask for documentation of curriculum, etc.

    The weird thing about all this union bashing is that I see nowhere any articles about how OUSD is offering to pay us more in exchange for decreasing our job security. The simplistic demand is: Teachers should give up tenure “for the good of the children.”

    Somehow if an individual uses the free market to set their prices or salary, that’s fine with conservatives, but if people get together as a bargaining unit, they are anti-children and “entitled”?

  • J.R.

    Ah yes,
    but the reality “IS”, “CAN” and “DO” are two different things and up to is a variable here, and I have witnessed this myself. I have a principal tell me ” I would love to catch this teacher actually teaching the kids when I drop in for evaluation”. This principal knows that the system is rigged for mediocrity at best, and the parents are “finally” starting to see that.

    To address free market vs bargaining unit, when you have to stand alone on a job it is about you and your merit,attitude, and ability, when it is a group of people, things get fuzzy when it pertains to who does their job well and who does not(lowest common denominator kind of thing).As for being anti-children no I don’t believe most teachers are(the best certainly are “pro-child”, but a more precise term for the mediocre teachers would be “child neutral” and the bad teachers would be anti-child, and that’s probably not good enough for kids that need a lot of help. If you or your union believe that a teacher who is on cruise-control, and takes the path of least resistance is a good teacher, then the teaching profession is not for you or them. It is a public trust and our children are at stake, so we will not tolerate malingering teachers anymore, bank on it.

  • J.R.

    Ah yes,
    The reality “IS” this: “CAN” and “DO” are two different things and up to is a variable here, and I have witnessed this myself. I have a principal tell me ” I would love to catch this teacher actually teaching the kids when I drop in for evaluation”. This principal knows that the system is rigged for mediocrity at best, and the parents are “finally” starting to see that.

    To address free market vs bargaining unit, when you have to stand alone on a job it is about you and your merit,attitude, and ability, when it is a group of people, things get fuzzy when it pertains to who does their job well and who does not(lowest common denominator kind of thing).As for being anti-children no I don’t believe most teachers are(the best certainly are “pro-child”, but a more precise term for the mediocre teachers would be “child neutral” and the bad teachers would be anti-child, and that’s probably not good enough for kids that need a lot of help. If you or your union believe that a teacher who is on cruise-control, and takes the path of least resistance is a good teacher, then the teaching profession is not for you or them. It is a public trust and our children are at stake, so we will not tolerate malingering teachers anymore, bank on it.

  • Cranky Teacher

    J.R., no teacher wants to share a school with “anti-child” teachers. Saying we do is a strawman argument. The issue is, who is responsible for hiring, evaluations, discipline, retraining and firing? The employer.

    In the real world, there is simply no mechanism, authority, time or money for individual teachers, unpaid site reps who are full-time teachers, or the smattering of paid union officials to evaluate, discipline, retrain and/or recommend the firing of another teacher.

    Where does something like this? Do cop unions evaluate and remove corrupt cops?

    Here’s what a teacher, whether they are a site rep or not, CAN do: Report another teacher to the administration for unprofessional conduct. That’s it! However, since teachers are all in our own classrooms, when are we even going to see it? We generally only know hearsay — gossip.

    Parents actually have more power, when they organize together, but it is still an uphill battle, as the Lazear parents are finding out.

    Now, mediocrity is whole ‘nother deal, J.R. The system actually SELECTS FOR MEDIOCRITY. By setting up a devil’s choice where you can either a) work 20-30 hours of unpaid overtime to be half-way decent at a job which demands a wide variety of strengths and doesn’t pay that well to begin with, or b) Figure out how to fit all your work into an eight-hour-day where only a fraction is set aside for prep and assessment, the result is rather predictable, with four potential outcomes (to generalize):

    1. You become a superstar who lasts 25+ years working crazy hours. These are folks who usually have unnatural ability to maintain high energy levels and/or make teaching the entire focus of their lives.

    2. Are incredibly efficient and consistent and thus are able to be a good teacher in roughly the 40 hours alloted. These people are also exceptional but they exist. However, if you teach anything where writing is a large component of the curriculum it is impossible to do this — unless you pay readers, which a surprising number of high school teachers are forced to do.

    3. Slowly slide into being “that teacher” who exclusively uses worksheets, textbooks and canned curriculum, never assigns writing and is seen racing to their car at 3 p.m. everyday. Knowing they are mediocre or worse, their morale is often very low and they seem depressed, defensive or embarrassed most of the time. They don’t quit teaching because they don’t know what else they’d do and/or they’ve reached a perch on the pay scale that is decent. If pressed on the quality of their work, they will cite the contract that “this is the way I’ve always done it.” If pressed on the poor results of their students, they will blame the students themselves and/or the schools that had them before.

    4. Quit the profession. Unable to make a choice between this seemingly untenable contradiction with such unpalatable choices, they just drift away. Less than five years ago, I went to a well-respected university credential program with a cohort of very highly-motivated do-gooder teachers … and many of them have already stopped teaching completely; others are on the fence.

    So, 1, 2, 3, 4 — over time the 4s leave, some 1s and 2s end up becoming 3s if they don’t keep examining their practice and finally you are left with what we have: Islands of exceptional “star” teachers (and gung-ho rookies) surrounded by “mediocre” teachers working hard by the standards of some professions yet generally failing on a regular basis while absorbing daily negative energy for being a “bad teacher.”

    Sound like the schools you attended, whether in Oakland or not? Yeah, me, too.

    We didn’t start the fire…

  • Union Supporter-But

    @ Cranky Teacher – The principal has paid for the sub and the training. The teacher didn’t show up. The PTA and a concern group of parents have paid for training and subs. The teacher doesn’t show up. Between school and donations we have spent the equivalent of $48 per student for this teacher to have training at which she never showed up.

    My personal opinion – although it doesn’t count – if we pay and she doesn’t show up and doesn’t have a doctor’s note, she should reimburse the school and/or the parents. Enough is enough. And, I for one, would love to make it public OR have her teach a grade for which she knows the material – any grade below third grade.

  • Cranky Teacher

    @ union supporter-but:

    I wouldn’t want to comment on an individual situation I am not familiar with, but it sounds like that person is definitely worthy of being put on notice and held accountable. And is either a jerk or in some kind of life crisis.

    Again, though, the bigger picture is important, too, when we want to prevent this on a larger scale. So: How did that situation develop? Who hired the person and kept them on until they had “tenure”? What evals have (or haven’t) been done? Were they moved to teach something they weren’t trained to teach because the system treated scheduling as if teachers are interchangeable widgets? Were they dumped from another school because an administrator thought that was easier than evaluating/retraining them?

    Just as with students, a few teachers at either extreme of emotional/mental/social fitness will succeed or fail pretty much no matter what the external inputs. But for many in the middle, the system is the determinant.

    Imagine one district that has new teachers teach a single course in a supportive, collaborative and consistent environment for several years before they are asked to branch out to take on new courses and responsibilities. That’s smart and practical.

    Here’s the norm, though: By their third year in many districts, teachers will have taught three or four different classes (if at middle/high school) or 2 or 3 different grades (if at elementary). And for all of them, they will have generally been given little more support than a textbook, a classroom and some pep talks. Meanwhile, they may have also been asked to coach a team, handle test prep after or before school, or serve on various school reform and accreditation committees. They may already be working under their second or third principal. After 36 months they feel like they’ve been teaching for 36 years.

    In the latter situation, was any of that done maliciously? No. Can the teacher still survive, even thrive? Yes. But when crisis and scarcity are the normal modes of function, you dramatically lower the chances of teachers flowering and increase the chances of burnout, regression or quitting.

  • J.R.

    Can the “student” still survive, even thrive? Yes. But when crisis and scarcity are the normal modes of function, you dramatically lower the chances of “students” flowering and increase the chances of burnout, regression or quitting. The kids options are limited, they have to be there at school and learn from whomever is teaching. Children do not always have the easy choice of changing schools,retiring or finding a new career that is more suitable. Teachers can pretty much choose their own destiny, the kids depend on adults to see that they have the chance to learn and grow(maybe the kids need their own union).

  • Cranky Teacher

    J.R., I’m not sure what your point is, beyond frustration. Of course the children are the point of all this — that is why it is so important to recruit, retain and support quality teachers. Doubly so in places where many parents (the kids’ “union”) can’t provide consistent academic or emotional support.

    If your point was that crappy teachers should move on, I’m with you.


  • J.R.

    Yep, they should find greener pastures. We also need to eliminate the top heavy bureaucracy of the education system(all the multiple redundant layers of superintendents at the fed, state, county and local level). The majority of funding should always reach the kids in the classroom and I am not so sure that it does.

  • Union Supporter-But

    My question is since three students have moved from the class (out of Oakland Unified), what if anything, as a school district, as a school, as a teacher, as a principal, as a PTA, as a community – should we do for the STUDENTS of the teacher who is not performing, not taking advantage of educational opportunities, and who is having issues.

    For the students who did not learn the grade level material, and who scored 80% or better on tests last year, but have failed either portions or the whole benchmark tests this year, what responsibility do we have to them?

    Do we just send them into next year with no foundation of material for this year? That is what I hear on this blog when we defend the current teacher – I hear what we owe the teacher, but I want to know what we owe the students before we kick them into the next school year.

  • Katy Murphy

    UPDATE: The school district has placed the teacher on administrative leave while they investigate the latest complaint, which alleges physical abuse.

    Troy Flint, the OUSD spokesman, said the district received new allegations relating to student safety which allowed them to put him on leave immediately. A parent filed a complaint with the district last Thursday, the day of the boycott, saying the teacher grabbed her son by the collar, leaving a mark on his neck.

  • Cheuy_Leuy

    Why is a school board member supporting this? America is democracy. Each person has the right to due process. Just because these parents perceive something doesn’t make okay to go mob and bully a teacher and a principal. I would like to know how many of these people “protesting” have US citizenship? Many of them don’t even understand America’s form of government or constitutional values. They are nothing more than a bunch of bullies rather than taking proper action. The proof is in their actions to “try” this in the Court of public opinion rather than the proper forum. Have any of them taken the Oath for Citizenship? I doubt it…and, you would think a school board member who purported took his including to uphold and defend the American constitution and a democratic form of government he is supposed to be promoting in his position. Ready to retaliate? Are you no better than the gang-member street shooter who is going to machine-gun you down if you drive into his part of town wearing a red jersey? Shame of all of you..and if you like to behave like Nextset has stated hundreds of times…”like an animal” go to the zoo for further lessons. STOP OUSD BULLIES!!!! ALL OF THEM…You never know where all of this will lead…You like to bankrupt the District on unnecessary litigation and further bankrupt the current and future generations of Oakland kids coming to school?…Oh, I forgot, the report of the Factfinder finding the same waste of money and time…Oh, why didn’t you just call CPS or police on that teacher rather than “drag” him/her out of the classroom and then bully him/her in public?
    P.S. I will never send my baby to an OUSD school and I think all of the parents should strike and riot with the Teachers for many weeks…Shut this whole City down…oh, and again…don’t forget to invite the whole City of Oakland workers also ripped off and subjugated into a less than living wage while contractors took off with 6-digit salaries and equivalent or more overtime bonuses as the base salary for years…Where does all of this lead?..vigilatism and fascist like pitting of peter against paul…turn in your neighbor…when will you all turn the other cheek?

  • Cheuy_Leuy

    Why don’t you all adopt a research-based, anti-bully curriculum?


    How can you support networking over 750 surveillance cameras by 2011 in the District to prevent crime and then allow such a person with a “bully” mentality to run the program????????????